PORTLAND, Ore — As dozens of wildfires continue to burn across Oregon, cities and towns from Portland to Medford have been inundated with smoke.
The air quality in Oregon cities west of the Cascades ranged from unhealthy to hazardous last week. But rain arrived Thursday night and Friday morning and the Oregon Department of Air Quality reported that air quality in the area was improving.
As of 11 p.m. Friday, the Portland metro area's air quality rated as "good" with an AQI score of 38, down from a score of 181 on Friday morning. Over the past week, Portland's air quality had rated between "very unhealthy" and "hazardous."
KGW meteorologist Rod Hill said Friday morning that the air throughout the Northwest should continue to improve into the weekend as the large, thick smoke clouds break up.
INTERACTIVE: Air quality map
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) says older adults and children are more likely to be affected by wildfire smoke, as well as people with heart disease and lung disease.
Here are the OHA’s recommendations for everyone on how to limit exposure to wildfire smoke:
- If you are advised to stay indoors, keep indoor air as clean as possible.
Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Running a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or an electro-static precipitator (ESP) can also help you keep your indoor air clean. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
- Do not add to indoor pollution.
When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
- Do not rely on masks for protection.
Paper "comfort" or "dust" masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke.